Sunday, 25 September 2011

Can we get much higher?

This could get quite boring. I hope that it does. If I have to write about us winning by large margins every week, I'm quickly going to run out of superlatives and endlessly repeating the phrase 'keeping momentum' isn't going to be very interesting to anyone. The facts as they stand now are that we are in position one in the league, we've scored seven and conceded none. We are pleased. It feels like this league game has been a long time coming. With pre-season and the cup we've been screwed on for a while now, waiting for this game. One of mine and H's worries before the match was that we were under-prepared, it was a problem last season for home games and something we need to stamp out. What I'm talking about is silly things like lateness, not focusing early enough, starting the game after it has started mentally. That is like a poison, but I'm happy to say that we were not infected by it on Saturday.

Last season we beat a team 9-0. With the greatest of respect to them they were awful. I don't want to take the mickey though because this team lost by double figures nearly every week, scored only 3 goals in the entire season and had to travel at least 15 miles for every game, yet they still turned up and played every single week. You have to applaud that. This weekend that same team played our new men's 4th team, and drew 4-4, I'm happy for them to have found a level. The reason I mention this team is because with our large margin of victory (7-0, if I hadn't mentioned it) was not against a team that were vastly inferior to us. They gave a good fight of it and you could see that they had some qualities and pace of their own. But it wasn't anywhere near us. We shut them out and piled the goals in, and getting the goals is exactly what we missed last season. Our play in the D is finally coming on to match our play on the rest of the field, we're dangerous now, and we can come at teams from lots of different angles. I'm not going to get specific but our work and effort have allowed us to start scoring easily. The perfect example is the two goals I scored yesterday, I didn't smash them in from the top, I didn't beat 6 men and flick it top corner. I waited on the P spot for the ball to come to me and put it in the goal, simple (although I, and any other forward worth a damn, loves to smash one in from the top).

What I'm saying is we earned all seven of our goals and all three of our points. And now we need to go out and do the exact same thing 21 more times and we'll be where we want to be. That's going to be a battle, we have to prove our class every week, we start from nothing every week and play against the worlds hardest team every week. One things pretty sure, we're up for that. If we could've played our next game straight after the last one I think we would have. I know H would've anyway, he had plenty of energy to spare. So that's it guys, the balls is rolling and we're on our way. I'll hope to bring you some bleeping bleep test talk next time out, although another rhyme might have to wait for a while I'm afraid, see you next time.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Get your drag on for the lads...

First fully dark training session tonight. We were all lured in by the promise of a bleep test, so numbers were a bit lower tonight. I was quite excited, I even had pasta and everything. Sadly, that has been postponed due to technical issues (as in, we had no technology) and I had wanted to bring you some results to peruse over but I guess that will have to wait for another day.

We're very close to league action now, almost as close as I am to making an interesting comment about preparation and pre-season training. Our last training session was about V-drags! No me neither. Although I can now rule out the following possibilities in terms of what they are: 5 men in drag, large V shaped pieces of metal attached to limbs, Venezuelan Dragons. Anyway, enough shanter. It was a useful thing for us to work on certainly. But this is not a coaching blog and I am certainly not a coach. So with this in mind I thought that the best way to offer you something of a tutorial was to provide a memorable musical rhyme to memorise the essential points. I decided to enlist the renowned cultural orator Gracious K. If you are unfamiliar with Mr K's contributions to society then you can find some of his musings HERE.

Now my rhyme is very much in the style of K's much lauded 'Migraine skank' and I hope that its simple yet catchy rhythm can leave you all rocking the V-drag skank, it goes as follows:

First step you send your stick left,
Next step you drag your stick right,
Then you move both feet round the man,
Then you show me the V-Drag skank.

1st team I wanna see the V-drag  skank,
Don’t stop poppin' that V-drag skank,
Inside right show me the V-drag skank,
Inside left show me the V-drag skank,
It’s like cut inside and skank,
Put two hands on your stick and skank.

Man a like shooooooow meee how you get round, man a go drag round

Now if that didn't help you understand the complexity of the manoeuvre then stop being afraid of bleep tests and get your arses to training! See you next time, where I might return to being sensible...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Full steam ahead

Well, that was fun. Yesterday we put our first win on the board, and in style. There isn't really a lot you can say about a 5-0 win other than how pleased you are about it, just ask our spectator goal keeper. Its a great bit of prep and a great way to bounce back from last weeks disappointment. Our big aim was to prove we could play with that same intensity as we did against a team much higher than us. I think we proved that well, though maybe there were some patches where we let it drop, we'll work on those.

I won't go into the specifics of how we played, if you want to see us in action you're going to have to come down and watch us, but in terms of progression I can say that last season we played the same team and drew 2-2. This year i think they got into our D twice rather than scoring twice. All in all we're heading in the right direction. But it means nothing. A friendly is a friendly, there are no points on the board, and that is what we're focused on now. We don't do fines pre-season, thats how non-serious it all is! We don't count goal scorers in the final tally (Sorry Neil, the jug was nice though!), so it's really all about next week. We're postion 9 in our league at the moment, and we want to move up 7 places on Saturday. We'll accept no substitutes.

I'd encourage you to come down if you can and lend us a bit of support, we're on at 1:30 at WHGS, come and be with us on the start of the journey...

Monday, 12 September 2011

10 seconds...

Apologies for my outright lies in my last post claiming that this post would be posted yesterday. A combination of aching limbs and a sore head conspired to reduce my brain power to the point where only basic motor functions were possible. This was largely due to the excesses of Saturday nights post-match activities. In this weeks case it was the drowning of sorrows that was taking place rather than the toasting of victory, but the difference in our attitude was slight because the margin seperating us from victory was so slim.

Now the records will always read that on Saturday we lost 3-2, but the numbers don't tell the story. Not by a long way. What keeps ringing through my head is that with 10 seconds to go the lowly Sale, 5 divisions inferior to their god-like opponents, were winning the game. Not just winning it, bossing it. Making the 'superior' opponents look clueless and lacklustre, a team without a drive, without cohesion, a team not up for the fight. Our hard work achieved that, our discipline and support for one another was what did that, and no result can detract form that. We played our way and we out-worked a team that were supposed to put us quite easily to the sword. This was supposed to ruin our hard-work and all of the preparation that we put in was meant to be brought back down to earth, but we simply went onto that pitch and said no. I think that at the end of the game, whilst tired and heartbroken, we were also proud.

The game saw us slip into a 1-0 deficit at half time, the result of a penalty flick. The flick was incorrectly given, but other than that the general standard of the umpiring was fantastic. It was a shame not to see the defender being given the benefit of the doubt, but we certainly kept our heads and tried not to appeal and rile the umpire, something our opponents showed less discipline in. To be in it at half-time was a great feeling, knowing that we had to keep our work-rate up was the real challenge, they way we played contained them very well. In the second half our tactical changes left the opposition struggling with what to do to break us down. We hit them a few times on the break before we finally netted an equalizer. I've not really mentioned this to any of the lads so I'm not sure if they noticed but I was the one who scored the equalizer, on my reverse stick no less. I mention this purely because my reverse stick ability is a part of my game which is comically lacking, so to score like that against such classy opponents is a source of great humour, if only to myself! But in all seriousness, when I looked around having scored to see the joy and belief on the faces of the other guys on the team, it was a great pleasure. This was a group of players who now believed that not only were they in the game, they could win the game. Once we knew we could score, that second goal didn't seem so surprising. It was a goal of great craft as well, open on the top of the circle Lyndon managed to resist the temptation to test the keeper (something I'm ashamed to say I probably couldn't do just yet) and played the pass that took the keeper out of the equation. Danny put the finish on it, and Sale were going through the the next round.

And then the heartbreak; 10 seconds left, a short corner, a goal. The opponents were out of jail and extra-time beckoned us. Our bodies were tired, not as tired as theirs. Our work-rate never dropped though and we battled through to the second half of ET, but it wasn't enough. They got a chance, they took it. A golden goal, but for the look on the winners faces as they trudged off the pitch it might as well have been brass. That's all I have to say about the winners, they don't merit the attention and they don't merit the many teams between us and them.

What I would say about the heartbreak though, and I'd implore our guys to do this, is hold on to it. Embrace that feeling and hate it. Hate it because you never want to feel it again. Hate it because it is but a drop in the ocean compared to how it feels to drop to lose games we should win. Hate it because it's how we will feel if we don't replicate our performance and we don't go out into our league and win. Let's take that feeling and use it to beat teams.

And let's start that winning next week in our friendly, a bit more on that next time though as  think I've got a bit too emotional now and need to have a lie down. Thanks for waiting for it and thanks for reading it!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Dangers of Passion

We're close now, so close I can almost taste it. The start of the season is coming up on Saturday and I feel like I have been waiting an age for it to come around. But now, with the club day and the first training session out of the way the next Hockey action is that long-awaited first game!

I suppose I should bring you up to date with the club day first. It was an excellent turnout, there were enough men down to fill at least three of our teams, with subs, not too bad for a first get together of the season, with planty of other guys to return. There were also a lot of new guys down, who I'd like to welcome to the club. I covered competition for places last time and how new players help that and I would re-iterate what Captain H said at training (minus the expletives): that players are not judged on what they used to do or whose friend they may be etc. but on the effort they put in on a Saturday and on a Tuesday, that's the only way to make selection fair and fair is the only way selection should ever be in my opinion.

We've also started training, the first of our first team squad training sessions. Starting with an agility test was a bit of a shock to the system but I am really excited to see what Coach has come up with for us to do over the coming weeks and am glad of having the pitch time to work on our game. I'm positively brimming with excitement, I think most of the guys in the squad are. Our only worry is the potential reality check we face on Saturday.

For the first time whilst I have been playing in the 1st XI we have decided that this year we would enter the Cheshire plate competition, we looked at the teams involved and thought with some in our division and some a couple of leagues higher it would be a good test of our strength carried over from last season and a good chance to rate ourselves against stronger opponents. Well we certainly got our wish. Our draw in the cup sees us face a team that are currently competing six divisions higher than us. If hockey worked anything like the football pyramid (which it doesn't) we would be taking on a team playing in the conference. It's safe to say we are underdogs. But then there is the belief. It is this belief, this passion, which is the reason for the title of this post. We are so prepared and so primed and so ready to take on our first opposition of the season that there is a danger that we could overcook it.

Make no mistake, we want to win. But also make no mistake, we probobly won't. I'm not a defeatist but the harsh reality has to be put out there so that it doesn't bite quite so hard. Beating this team on Saturday is not one of our season goals, and so we have to make sure that whatever happens on Saturday it helps us move towards our goals. A far more constructive test in this game than going all out to win is to see how well the way we play and the composure and togetherness we have as a team can stand up to this opposition. I believe that in that department we have the potential to come out the clear winners. I hope that we can focus on playing our game, that would prove that we can do that against any team in our league, at anytime, in any place. That would be a much greater comfort to me than making sacrifices to compete with a team we are not competing with.

So that's the danger of our passion, not blowing up on day one, managing ourselves and giving our all, our way, not theirs. If we do that then we come away the winners. Would be nice to smash them though all the same!

I'll hope to update my (by now) thousands of readers with the result of this highly anticipated game sometime on Sunday.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


So we're about two days ahead of the first official Sale Hockey Club action of the season, the Club Day! Club day, is essentially a practice game between all the players of the club with guys of various abilities all jumbled up and thrown together. The format always depends on how many folks turn up, could be one big game could be a few small. Essentially the club day serves two functions. Firstly it's a chance for all members to meet up again after the long summer off, have a bit of a social and blow off some of the dust and rust from their sticks. It's also a chance for the leaders of each team (and this season we have 4!) to have a look at what kind of ability level each player falls into and try to attribute them to a squad and team.

For me, coach and el Capitan it will be crucial for us to see what kind of squad we are going to see shaping up and who will be filling the 17-19 places who we will be thinking about when we draw up the team sheet for 1st team games. Of course, it's not some sort of trial by fire and players always push themselves in and out of contention over the course of a season.

This season I think the competition for places will be at its highest ever, and that is a great asset for us. In my opinion there are about 6 lads who I would be very surprised not to see start the majority of our games and no, I don't count myself in that number. After that there is somewhat of an open field so there's a lot of hard work to be put in all around, especially if we're looking at taking an average of a squad of 13 on match days. This should be encouraged but it is also somewhat tricky ground. This isn't professional sport and we are not a marquee team playing national league hockey. Many of our players are giving up a huge chunk of their free time and money to come and play for us and when we have games all the way in North Wales the last thing we want to do is give the impression that players do not matter to the team. It is insulting to them personally and it is also bad for the team both on and off the field, after all, what is a team without its players?. That said, those guys who fit into our system, who work hard and show they have both the ability and dedication to our cause and our seasonal goals, will never be far away from a first team game.

And even for those lads who miss out on a 1st team game our 2nd team is looking to be a lot stronger this season as a result of the competition for places. Last season they got promoted from their division and now with an influx of players should hope to prove they can more than compete at that level and continue to narrow the gap between 1st and 2nd team standard of play. Hopefully there will be a lot of guys working hard to do that in their league and give us on the 1st team a nasty headache in selection meetings.

I'll be watching the numbers we manage to get down on the club day closely as well to see what kind of a 4th team we may see shaping up for the new season. It is the first time in over a decade Sale has entered a 4th team into the league and it's going to be a big test for the club to pull it off. I'm wishing them all the best and will be supporting them in any way I can.

Anyway I'll sign off for now and will hopefully update you all on what happens after Saturday when I'll hopefully do some shameless promotion for this blog. Adios for now.